The Greenbelt weekend proper begins with angels and rainbows

Greenbelt Festival 2010 review

By Helen OSullivan | Published: Fri 3rd Sep 2010

Zic Zazou

Friday 27th to Monday 30th August 2010
Prestbury, Cheltenham, England MAP
£99; Concs £66; 11-17 years £55; 4-10 yr olds £50; family ticket £259
Last updated: Thu 2nd Sep 2010

Greenbelt is a festival based around the Christian faith, justice campaigns and a broad range of arts including theatre, visual arts, dance, comedy and music. It has been running for 37 years and in its current location of Cheltenham racecourse, surrounded by the lovely Cotswold Hills, for the last 11 years.

It is a safe, family-friendly place and aims to be inclusive and accessible to all ages and abilities, and to people of any faith and none. It has a Children's festival, for 6 months to 11 year olds, as well as a dedicated youth programme for 11- 17 year olds, and parents are happy to let their teenagers roam safely around. The festival also encourages participation – from the many hundreds of volunteers who help in teams across site to the myriad of workshops for punters to enjoy, encompassing DJ and music workshops to dance lessons and art classes. It's a relatively small festival, at approximately 20,000 ticket-holders.

around the festival site (Friday)
This year's theme which will run through some of the seminars, art exhibits and workshops is 'The Art of Looking Sideways', that is seeing from another perspective and trying not to miss things on the periphery.

A quick summary of highlights of the weekend for me – Friday: Zic Zazou, Saturday: Thomas Truax, Sunday: The Fancy Toys and Monday was seeing Foy Vance on mainstage, a last minute addition to the line-up.

Travelling to Cheltenham and getting to the site has gone very smoothly and there is a shuttle bus from the train station, which is running according to schedule. But those arriving by car have had a frustrating time; due to the rain, vehicles are not allowed on to most of the camping areas as the ground is a bit soggy. It's a sensible decision but leads to a massive queue waiting to get in. Lots of punters are making use of the golf-cart taxis to ferry their tents and gear to the campsites from the entrance.

around the festival site (Friday)
The Greenbelt weekend proper begins with angels and rainbows...

The first events are scheduled for a 6 pm start but an hour prior to this there's a special welcome and introduction for the "angels", people who financially support the festival through the year (aside from buying tickets). Apparently, without the angels ticket prices would be 26% higher. We're told that there has been some bad news for Greenbelt – a couple of the partner-sponsors have pulled out, and the Director of the Festival resigned recently. However, the show goes on and we're given a taster of the weekend in store with comedy songs from Jude Simpson, music from The Social Services and a few tips from Greenbelt's Head of Content.

Strolling across from the marquees on the centre course to the buildings and mainstage side of the festival, everybody stops on the walkway across the racetrack to gawp at the beautiful rainbow that's formed – the colours are particularly vivid and the whole bow is visible as well as a faint second rainbow behind this one. That has to beat the 3D light display on the bridge at Latitude!

Zic Zazou
Friday's most talked about event is Zic Zazou
Over to my favourite Greenbelt venue, the Performance Café, which seats a few hundred people. It houses the vegetarian Nuts Café at one end, a stage at the opposite end with lots of tables and chairs in between, has a starlit draped ceiling and a laidback atmosphere. I catch Megson, a husband and wife folk duo who play guitar, mandolin and accordion and share vocals. The songs are flavoured by the area they live in, the north-east, and are tales of communities closing down like 'The Last Man in the Factory' and 'The Old Miner'.

Folk On (Friday)
Back to the Centaur for the magazine show 'Last Orders' hosted by Jude Mason and Andy Turner. The show runs for a couple of hours each night of the festival and is a good round-up of the day as well as showcasing snippets of events and bands that are coming up. This year they have a resident band in the shape of Folk On, a spoof country-folk band that were hugely popular at the festival a few years back, and a resident cartoonist Dave Walker whose hilarious cartoons are shown on a screen above the stage. There's usually a regular video clip each night too and this year it's Bunnybelt, a mickey-take of Greenbelt with toy rabbits and other woodland creatures, which sounds odd but is very funny.

Peter Tatchell
Tonight's show also features Dave Andrews, one of the speakers from the seminar programme, Zic Zazou, Steve Tomkins, a writer and funny-man, Stephen Langstaff, a singer-songwriter who played at the Performance Café earlier this evening, , Peter Tatchell a high profile human rights activist and former MP, talking about the struggle for queer freedom in Africa (which he's holding a seminar on tomorrow) and Jude Simpson, a poet and musical comedian, who sings a memorable song called 'My Baby is a Mango' about a surreal dream she'd had towards the end of her pregnancy. The show finishes just after 1 am and there's still stuff going on including club music in the Underground venue and drinking in the beer tent, 'The Jesus Arms' (brilliant name! - Ed), but the lightweights head back to their tents.

around the festival site (Saturday)
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

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